THE CASE FOR VENDING, PART 4
We can make it
While the operating side of the business has
become less proﬁtable, it continues to offer
a good life for those who understand what
the business requires. The future is most
questionable for medium-size operators.
By Elliot Maras, Editor
T he current business scenario forces the vending
operator community to search its soul. Veterans note
that no time has challenged the vending operator as
much as the present, as costs rise, the customer base shrinks
and consumers are reluctant to spend money.
The recession has accelerated pressures that have been
at work since 9/11, giving new urgency to the need to assess
For some, this means selling the business, assuming they
can get a reasonable offer. For others, it means outlining their
business goals more clearly than they have in the past and
having a formal strategy for achieving them.
Most operators in recent months have, on some level,
asked themselves the question: is this business worth the time
and trouble it requires?
For some, the answer is “no.” For others, it is a qualiﬁed
“yes.” One point that most agree on is that the effort required is
greater than it was when they ﬁrst got into the business, whether
it was 10, 20, 30 or more years ago.
Automatic Merchandiser has frequently observed that vending
remains one of the last entrepreneurial industries. Where many
industries, such as ofﬁce products, supermarkets and mass mer-
chants, have consolidated, vending is one of the few in which an
individual can, with relatively limited resources, establish a busi-
ness that is proﬁtable enough to provide a good living. This has
been the case since merchandise vending became a recognized
industry early in the last century. Based on recent interviews with
operators of varying ages in different sizes of companies, Automatic
Merchandiser maintains that the axiom still holds true today.
18 Automatic Merchandiser VendingMarketWatch.com 04.09
THE CASE FOR VENDING, PART 4
All operators interviewed agreed that the industry is Rick Matthews, owner of H & L Tom’s Distributors Inc.
changing in a way that demands a higher level of profes- in Virginia Beach, Va., was able to change his operating
sionalism. Most believe that technology will facilitate this procedures to improve his proﬁtability four years ago. As
professionalism and give it a better reputation among the a result, he’s making more money today even though his
buying public. same store sales are down 10 percent. This was accom-
plished by replacing step vans with more fuel efﬁcient
cargo vans, and moving from a static route schedule to a
Some operators welcome more ﬂexible schedule. He also pre-kitted the trucks.
“It really puts us at the location when we service the
the current “survival mode” machine more at a time when we need to be there,” he
said. This has allowed him to eliminate two routes.
intensity as a catalyst to
accelerate positive change. ON THE HORIZON: REMOTE MACHINE MONITO